Withdrawal of protection status

Belgium

Country Report: Withdrawal of protection status Last updated: 01/04/21

Author

Vluchtelingenwerk Vlaanderen Visit Website

Revocation of refugee status is provided for in Article 49(2) of the Aliens Act in conjunction with Article 55/3/1 of the Aliens Act. The articles state that during the first 10 years of residence the Immigration Office can ask the CGRS to revoke refugee status when the person concerned should have been excluded from refugee status or when refugee status was obtained on a fraudulent basis.[1] The exclusion clause refers to Articles 1 D, E and F of the 1951 Convention.[2]

Revocation on grounds of fraud can be based on wrongfully displayed facts, withheld facts, false declarations, fraudulent documents or personal behaviour that proves that the applicant no longer fears persecution. In case of withdrawal based on fraud, the CALL confirmed that the facts that have been misrepresented or withheld or false must be strictly interpreted – meaning that they must have been decisive for the granting of refugee status. In other words, it is only if the protection would not have been granted without the fraud that it can be withdrawn. [3]

There is an active exchange of information between the various government agencies. For example, the exchange of information about an application for family reunification of family members in the country of origin may lead to a withdrawal of the refugee status of an LGBTI person, if after a re-examination it is established that it is no longer possible to consider the applicant’s statements on his or her the sexual orientation credible. The protection status can also be withdrawn after receiving new element, as was the case in 2019 for a couple that had presented an Iraqi passport to the municipality (in the context of a procedure to acquire Belgian nationality) which had not been presented to the CGRS and contained elements contrary to the claims made during the asylum procedure. Moreover, the stamps in the passport showed that the couple had travelled back to Iraq for almost two months. Based on these new elements, and the lack of credible explanations by the couple, the CGRS could conclude they came from another region than the one that they had claimed, and therefore the need for protection had wrongly been examined in regard to the other region. The CALL thus confirmed both the lack of a protection need and the withdrawal of the subsidiary protection status which had been granted based on false declarations.[4]

Refugee status can be revoked anytime the refugee is considered a danger to society, sentenced for a very serious crime or when there are reasonable grounds to consider the refugee a threat to national security.[5] This ground for revocation was added in 2015 and is not limited in time.[6] The CGRS has clarified that the first limb – danger to society – can only lead to revocation following a conviction judgment, whereas the “national security” ground may be satisfied without such a judgment.[7]

The Immigration Office sends the CGRS every element that could justify a revocation of the refugee status on the basis of Article 55/3/1 Aliens Act. The CGRS will take a decision within 60 days and inform the Immigration Office of the outcome. However, this time limit is not enforceable and not respected in practice. In the event of a revocation of refugee status on the grounds of Article 55/3/1(1) or 55/3/1(2)(2) of the Aliens Act, the CGRS will also issue an opinion on the compatibility of an expulsion measure with Articles 48/3 and 48/4.

Subsidiary protection can be revoked on the grounds listed in Article 49/2 and 55/5/1 of the Aliens Act. The GCRS can revoke the subsidiary protection status during the first 10 years of residence when the beneficiary has merely left his or her country of origin in order to escape sentences related to one or multiple committed crimes that do not fall under the scope of Article 55/4(1) Aliens Act and would be punishable with a prison sentence if they would have been committed in Belgium.[8] This ground for revocation was only included in 2015 and is not limited in time.[9]

Status can always be revoked when the beneficiary should have been excluded from protection according to Article 55/4(1) and (2). This article relates to persons having committed a crime against peace, a war crime, or a crime against humanity. Other exclusion possibilities listed are being guilty of acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations and having committed a serious crime.[10] The subsidiary protection status can also be revoked any time when the beneficiary is considered to be a threat for society or national security.[11] The final possibility for the CGRS to revoke subsidiary protection status is when the status was granted on a fraudulent basis. This fraudulent basis can be wrongfully displayed facts, withheld facts, false declarations, fraudulent documents or personal behaviour that proves that the applicant no longer fears persecution.[12] Revocation on the grounds of a fraudulent basis can only occur during the first 10 years of residence in Belgium.

The Immigration Office sends the CGRS every element that could justify a revocation of refugee status on the basis of Article 55/5/1 Aliens Act. This also applies when it is feared that the beneficiary is a threat for society or national security. The CGRS will take a decision within 60 days and informs the Immigration Office and the person concerned of the outcome. However, this time limit is not enforceable and not respected in practice.[13] If subsidiary protection status is revoked on the basis of exclusion clauses or the committing of a crime punishable with a prison sentence in Belgium, the CGRS issues an advice on the compatibility of an expulsion measure with Articles 48/3 and 48/4.

The CGRS informs the person concerned of the reasons for the reinvestigation of the protection status and always calls the beneficiary for a hearing where the alien has the opportunity to refute the allegations.

The jurisprudence shows that the most cases in which the protection status was withdrawn were initiated by the Secretary of State for Asylum and Migration.[14]

The CALL has considered crimes ranging from supporting terrorist activities, piracy, murder, attempted manslaughter, rape, to theft with violence or threat as a particularly serious crime. Even crimes that were committed years ago can prove a danger to society according to the CALL. In the context of demonstrating if the danger is still present, the steps taken to rehabilitation and reintegration often do not detract from the observation that the fact that a person was convicted of a particularly serious crime is sufficient to demonstrate the danger to society. The risk of recidivism plays a role in the assessment of the CAL in certain cases, but it does not seem to be a necessary element.

A 2016 amendment changed the wording of the Aliens Act, thereby allowing the Immigration Office to end the right to residence of a person whose protection status is revoked on the grounds of Article 55/3/1(1) or 55/5/1(1) Aliens Act. A person can also be ordered to leave the territory if the protection status is revoked on the grounds of Article 55/3/1(2) or 55/5/1(2) Aliens Act. In the event of a revocation on the aforementioned grounds, the Immigration Office has to assess the proportionality of an expulsion measure. This requires the Immigration Office to take the duration of residence in Belgium, the existence of family, cultural and social ties with the country of origin and the nature and stability of the family into account.

In 2020, the CGRS withdrew the protection status in 77 cases.[15] Out of them, 60 concerned the refugee status of beneficiaries originating from Iraq (20), Other countries (15), Guinea (8), Russia (7), Albania (6) and China (4) The other 17 withdrawals concerned the subsidiary protection of persons originating from Afghanistan (9) and Iraq (8).

In case a (final) decision to cease international protection status is issued, it has no automatic consequences on family members and dependents of the former beneficiary of international protection. A case by case decision is taken to determine whether they are entitled to keep or lose their international protection status. The conditions for cessation or withdrawal need to be fulfilled for every family member separately.

[1]        Article 55/3/1(2) Aliens Act.

[2]        Article 55/2 Aliens Act.

[3]        CALL, 11 March 2016, No 163942.

[4]       CALL, 27 February 2019, Decision No 217584.

[5]        Article 55/3/1(1) in conjunction with Article 49(2) Aliens Act.

[6]        Article 8 of the Law of 10 August 2015 changing the Aliens act to take threats to society and national security into account in applications for international protection, 24 August 2015, 2015000440.

[7]        Myria, Contact meeting, 20 September 2017, para 24.

[8]        Article 55/5/1(1) Aliens Act.

[9]        Article 10 Law of 10 August 2015.

[10]       The crimes listed in Article 55/4(1) Aliens Act are also known as the ‘exclusion clause’ 1F of the 1951 Refugee Convention.

[11]       Article 55/4(2) Aliens Act.

[12]       Article 55/5/1(2)(2) Aliens Act.

[13]       EMN, Beneficiaries of international protection travelling to their country of origin challenges, policies and practices in Belgium, July 2019, available at: https://bit.ly/2NIHhbP, 66.

[14]       RvV, 13 September 2017, No 191.962; RvV 27 April 2017, No 186.175; RvV, 27 February 2017, No 183.042; RvV, 13 January 2017, No 180.745; RvV, 12 January 2017, No 180.693; RvV, 16 November 2016, No 177.764; RvV, 27 October 2016, No 177.066; RvV, 20 October 2016, No 176.596; RvV, 20 October 2016, No 176.586; RvV, 1 September 2016, No 173.955; RvV, 1 September 2016, No 173.954; RvV, 17 May 2016, No 167.716; RvV, 1 September 2016, No 173.904; RvV, 2 September 2016, No 174.006; RvV, 27 October 2016, No 177.066; RvV,13 January 2017, No 180.745.

[15]       Information provided by the CGRS January 2020.

Table of contents

  • Statistics
  • Overview of the legal framework
  • Overview of the main changes since the previous report update
  • Asylum Procedure
  • Reception Conditions
  • Detention of Asylum Seekers
  • Content of International Protection
  • ANNEX I – Transposition of the CEAS in national legislation